Baha'is accuse Iran of conducting 'systemic onslaught' on their community
Iran is stepping up its persecution of members of the Baha'i faith, a representative of the community has said amid a wave of arrests and land seizures from members of the religious minority in the country.
"What we are seeing in recent days is a systematic onslaught which is really vicious and cruel and very systematically organized by the government," Bani Dugal, the Principal Representative of the Baha'i International Community to the UN told the Times of Israel.
Baha'ism was founded in Iran in the mid-1800s. Though Iran recognises Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism as minority faiths, it does not extend the same recognition to Baha'ism.
Baha’is, who number an estimated 300,000 in Iran, are barred from many professions, denied education and do not have rights like other groups, Dugal said.
In recent days, Iran has conducted a wave of arrests against Baha'is, including of former spiritual leaders. It has also seized land and property from members of the group across the country.
Iran's intelligence ministry said Monday it had arrested the Baha'is on suspicion of spying for a centre located in Israel and of working illegally to spread their religion.
Baha'is are used to accusations by Iran of links to Israel, whose northern city of Haifa of hosts a Baha'i centre established due to the exile of a Baha'i leader well before the state of Israel was established.
Western diplomats have expressed concern over Iran's escalation of violence towards Baha'is.
"The persecution of religious minorities cannot be tolerated in 2022. We strongly condemn the increasing detention of members of the Baha’i community in Iran," Tariq Ahmad, the UK's Foreign Office Minister responsible for human rights and freedom of religion said on Friday.
Duval said the accusations put towards the arrested Baha'is were unfounded.
'They’re accusing people of being spies and all of that. These are relatively modest people with not great income working, tilling the soil up in northern Iran," she said.
"They believe in the Baha’i faith but that’s about it. To imagine that there’s some great espionage movement or political movement is really absurd."